A very brief visit to Belfast has particularly happy memories for me as friends welcomed me into their home in the Protestant area of Belfast. It was a ‘catch up’ time with much reminiscing about experiences in Australia. Their garden was delightful and a great place for the grandchildren.
They were my Tour Guides for the two days I spent with them and below are some highlights.
Sir Edward Carson, was an Irish unionist politician, barrister and judge. He was leader of the Irish Unionist Alliance and Ulster Unionist Party between 1910 and 1921, held numerous positions in the Cabinet of the United Kingdom and served as a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary. He was one of the few people not a monarch to receive a British state funeral. Historian John Brown says that “His larger than life-size statue, erected in his own lifetime in front of the Northern Ireland parliament at Stormont, symbolizes the widely held perception that Northern Ireland is Carson’s creation.”
Parliament Buildings, commonly known as Stormont because of its location in the Stormont Estate area of Belfast, is the seat of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Built in 1921 at a cost of nearly £1.7 million, it was designed to house the newly formed Government of Northern Ireland and was officially opened on 16th November 1932 by the then Prince of Wales, on behalf of King George V. It is the site of Northern Ireland’s main government buildings, which are surrounded by woods and parkland. The architect Sir Arnold Thornely, who was knighted by King George V in recognition of his architectural work, designed the building with perfect symmetry and symbolism, such as the building being 365ft wide representing one foot for every day of the year and having six floors and six pillars at the entrance, one for each county in Northern Ireland.
BELFAST CASTLE Belfast Castle is set on the slopes of Cave Hill Country Park in a prominent position 400 feet above sea level. Its location provides unobstructed views of the city of Belfast and Belfast Lough.
The building that stands today was built from 1811–70. It is in keeping with the Scottish Baronial style. The beautiful semi-spiral staircase down into the garden area was added in 1894. The garden is unique in having many references to cats in the form of sculptures, mosaics and manicured shrubs.
The area around the castle was originally farmland, but in the 1880s a major planting exercise transformed it into attractive wooded parkland.
The estate is home to many different species of wildlife, including long-eared owls and sparrowhawks. Park features include Cave Hill Adventurous Playground, Cave Hill Visitor Centre, landscaped gardens, a Millennium herb garden, Eco trails and orienteering routes.
The university forms the focal point of the Queen’s Quarter area of the city, one of Belfast’s four cultural districts. It offers academic degrees at various levels and across a broad subject range, with over 300 degree programmes available. Queen’s quarter is bursting with artistic creativity and is renowned for its entertainment and nightlife. It is also home to fascinating shops and enticing restaurants and cafes surrounded by lawns, trees and gardens.
On a drive along the Antrim Coast Road we had wonderful views of the GREEN countryside. We stopped at one point so that I could view the Peatland and my friends imparted some interesting information.
Peat (turf) is an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation or organic matter that is unique to natural areas called peatlands, bogs, or mires. Peat is harvested as an important source of fuel in certain parts of the world. In Northern Ireland there is small-scale domestic turf cutting in rural areas, but areas of bog lands have been diminished because of changes in agriculture.
C.S. Lewis (born in Belfast on 29 November, 1898) was a prolific Irish writer and scholar best known for his ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ fantasy series and his pro-Christian texts.
“I did not say to myself, ‘Let us represent Jesus as he really is in our world by a lion in Narnia.’ I said, ‘Let us suppose that there were a land like Narnia and that the Son of God, as he became a man in our world, became a lion there, and then imagine what would happen.’ ” —C.S. Lewis
“A Journey is best measured in friends rather than miles”